Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Amazing Race - France

I did something I have never done before this past weekend! The Amazing Race jetted to France, and I did a little kitchen happy dance. Sometimes, cooking food inspired by a country's cuisine can be downright hard. Or, as has happened in the past, three weeks of racing in China takes a toll on my creativity. I always strive to make something delicious and representative of the culture, but sometimes you just have to have a Chinese "chicken" salad (with veggie chik patties standing in for the poultry).

But, France? Ahhhhh, France. Cheese, bread, croissants (boulangerie/patisserie!!), wine ... France I can do! But I wasn't going to do France lying down! I decided to tackle something so quintessentially French that it's almost blasphemous to do it on this side of the pond ...

And I present to you ..... MADELEINES!

The infamous, butter-rich, shell-shaped, cakey cookie of my dreams!

To tackle this project, I had to purchase a madeleine pan. Madeleines are a spongy dough that is made by whirring the sugar and eggs together to create a light, foamy base, then gradually adding in flour, butter, and flavoring. In this case, I made lemon madeleines using the Meyer lemon from my CSA box. Usually, Meyer lemons get the scone treatment in my kitchen; had the race been to England, we might have seen some scones pop out of the oven!

I relied on that famed American-in-Paris, David Leibovitz, for the madeleine recipe. It makes 24, and my pan accommodated 12, which was an absolute blessing in disguise! The first batch of madeleines was ... less than perfect. They came out looking golden and beautiful on top ... blackened and streaked on the bottom. Hmmm ... I made some adjustments; instead of brushing the molds with melted butter, I used Pam. Instead of dusting with flour (the part that had unfortunately burned in round 1), I spread a bit of "clarified" butter in each mold. I had some leftover melted butter and skimmed the milk solids off the top to make a modified clarified butter (I didn't bother to strain or work too hard to get all the solids out - normally, these are the parts that burn, but in this case I figured it didn't matter too much since the madeleines themselves are chock-a-block with buttah). And I nudged my oven down to 400 from 425. I haven't done a scientific analysis, but I'm pretty sure this oven runs hot. I do a lot of adjusting downwards now that I have the electric oven. I am so used to a drafty old gas oven ...

The second batch came out beautifully!! Rich, decadent, but still light and fresh. Mmmm...

Bon appetit!

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